Remembering George Floyd and 4 Lessons We Have Learned
As the world remembers George Floyd’s death, what have we learned and can bring forward? Read 4 things we can do to make a difference and honor his legacy.
It has been exactly a year since the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd.
A year since the world began to understand the truth of how systems of oppression take the lives and livelihoods of people of color.
A year since the world erupted and said enough.
But have we done enough this year to really make a difference?
I have personally been hit hard with this question and feel an enormous responsibility to get this right—because I am the head of a global team of people who have been impacted by this revolution, and because I am a father who wants to raise my children to be anti-racist.
I am learning and recognizing that we all have a long way to go to embrace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and this is not a subject matter that you can learn and be done with—rather it is an active, everyday activity to unlearn the bias that has been embedded into our culture and minds. This is a journey, and it will take time and intention to get right.
I am incredibly fortunate to have trusting relationships with team members and peers who are willing to have courageous conversations with me and each other. This has allowed us to grow as individuals and teams and has encouraged our vision for DEI at SHL.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is not a subject matter that you can learn and be done with—rather it is an active, everyday activity to unlearn the bias that has been embedded into our culture and minds.
Here are some lessons we have learned together over the last year:
It is easy to be the person talking when you lead a large organization, but last summer we hosted several listening sessions in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. These sessions allowed our teams to share their personal experiences with racism in the world. I became acutely aware of how passionate my teams are about these justice issues.
In addition, DEI has become the main point of conversation with most of our customers who are equally fervent in their journey for stronger DEI. Over the last year, we have become better at so much to learn from each other in our fight toward a more equitable world.
"When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But when you listen you may learn something new.” – The Dalai Lama
The practice of reflection has become almost as precious to me these days as listening. There are moments when the truth is difficult to understand the first time you are hearing it. Reflection allows us to stop, process through the emotion that comes alongside new truths, and readjust to the new frame of thinking. It allows for intention and it opens you up to become more connected.
"Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful. — Margaret J. Wheatley
For DEI to work to truly impact our lives, we must grow a true connection with one another. When we allow ourselves to become more vulnerable, letting our defenses and guard down, then we gain energy from that connection to keep doing the difficult work of dismantling systems of oppression. Connection is born from trust and courage, whereas disconnection is born from fear and violence.
"I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. — Brené Brown
We have learned that consistent action (every day or week) adds up to a lot of progress over a year. The action comes in several forms (including listening, reflecting, and connecting) —a few ideas here are:
- Formal policies—making sure that business across the board is done with DEI considerations at the forefront.
- Formal and informal teams—groups of paid staff and volunteers across the organization willing to dedicate time and energy to the cause.
- Formal and informal conversations—calling out behaviors or actions that do not promote a culture of inclusion and keeping the topic of DEI fresh in meetings or at decision-making tables.
There are several ways in which the team at SHL has acted this year and we will continue to share more on that through our blogs The point here is that consistent action keeps momentum. It keeps the memory of George Floyd alive, and it promotes hope that true diversity, equity, and inclusion could someday be possible.
"Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come. — Greta Thunberg
Are we doing enough to make a difference as we remember George Floyd and the countless others who have lost their lives and livelihoods to racist oppression?
I do not know if there is a way to answer this question. However, if we continue to listen, reflect, connect, and act, then someday, I hope, we can confidently say yes.
Please join me in honoring George Floyd.